After our evening at the New Hope center, we were up at 4:30 AM to make it to Angkor Wat for sunrise. We walked across the bridge over the moat surrounding the complex in the dark, with the rest of the world beside us. This has got to be the most number of tourists I’ve seen in one place in my life. The majority clambers for a good position around the small lake in front of the temple, for a view of the temple reflected in the water during sunrise. All waited eagerly as the sky turned from black to grey to slate, but sadly, the day was cloudy, and we didn’t get the glorious colorful sunrise we had hoped for.
Nevertheless, the astounding temple stood before us, ready to be explored. Originally constructed as a Hindu Temple for the Khmer empire, it was converted to a Buddhist temple in the 12th century. The total area of the grounds are 1.6 million square meters, with outside walls about 3.6 km long. It combines two classic Khmer architectural styles, the temple mountain and galleried temple. The thing I found most beautiful was the intricate carvings and designs etched into every surface. Beautiful depictions of Indian literature and flowing patterns amaze the eye at every turn.
The temple itself is mammoth, with a very steep climb up to the top levels to walk through the different sections. Angkor Wat is unique for several reasons, one being its dedication to Vishnu, and another being its Westward orientation, leading some to think it was constructed as a funerary temple. It is regardless heralded as a masterpiece of architecture, art, and religious dedication, and I was blown away.
We followed up our visit with two more temples- the first being Ta Prohm where Tomb Raider was filmed, a very overgrown and tree-entwined masterpiece in the jungle, and second being the Bayon temple, a gorgeous temple with huge stone faces carved into the facades.
After a very long morning of temple visits, we had the afternoon free to explore. I went back into town for THE BEST gelato of my life. It may have helped that I was very tired and very hot, but regardless, Gelato Lab in Siem Reap has a killer chocolate sorbet- made with 80% dark chocolate from Guatemala, water, and sugar. It was divine.
I followed that up with some shopping and a visit to the fish spa- where little fishes nibble the dead skin of your feet. It feels very strange and funny at first but after a while you settle in, and it feels pretty great. An iced green tea was a great refresher at Cafe Central before a nice long shower. That evening we were back on pub street for dinner – delicious lamb curry then more bar hopping, where we discovered karaoke is very popular here.